Summer

Follow the school bus to summer lunches

Jewish Family Services’ Lunchbox Express program returns to Lakewood

Posted 6/6/17

During the summer months, Natalie Hess and her son Maddox are big fans of visiting the Lakewood Library. It’s close to where they live and they can participate in summer programs.

And now, thanks to Jewish Family Services Lunchbox Express …

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Summer

Follow the school bus to summer lunches

Jewish Family Services’ Lunchbox Express program returns to Lakewood

Posted

During the summer months, Natalie Hess and her son Maddox are big fans of visiting the Lakewood Library. It’s close to where they live and they can participate in summer programs.

And now, thanks to Jewish Family Services Lunchbox Express program, Maddox can get a free lunch as well.

“I think this is a great thing to do for kids,” Hess said. “We already come to the library a lot because we like their reading program.”

This is the third year Lakewood has hosted Lunchbox Express sites around the city, which allows any child younger than 18 to get a free nutritious lunch Monday through Friday.

“The first year, we had just one site, last year we had three, and this year we have the three city sites and three library sites,” said Jayna Lang, recreation program supervisor in the city’s recreation division. “Each year we’ve expanded, and the Lunchbox Express fed about 3,400 children last summer.”

According to information provided by Hunger Free Colorado, nearly one in five Colorado children may not know where their next meal will come from, and one in six households with children experience some kind of food hardship. Of these children in Colorado, those younger than six are the most likely to suffer from hunger.

This is can all be exacerbated during the summer months, when children cannot rely on schools to provide breakfast and lunch.

“The need for this kind of program expands every year,” said Doug Vega, the Lunchbox Express program coordinator. “We live in a great city, but people often forget about these pockets of need, so we’re able to not only bring them healthy lunch, but a social component as well.”

This summer, until Aug. 11, the Lunchbox Express will stop at Mountair, Ray Ross and Morse parks and the Belmar, Lakewood and Wheat Ridge libraries. Children should look for the Lunchbox Express yellow school bus in each parking lot. No proof of income or identification is necessary.

“We draw bigger and bigger crowds as the season goes on,” said Cameron Severson, the bus driver for the library stops. “An average crowd for some of our stops can be around 70 kids, and we even have some that reach around 100.”

Lunchbox Express is sponsored by the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, that makes nutritious lunches available during the summer at approved sites. There is a rotating menu, Severson said, including tuna salad, chicken salad, sunflower seeds and hummus dips.

“It’s not just food, its healthy food that kids are getting all summer,” Lang said. “The organization picks sites based on need in the area, so these lunches will be available to those who could really use them.”

In addition to the lunches, children will be able to pick out free books to keep so they can read at home.

Vega and the organization is already looking at ways to expand the program for the summer of 2018, and make the meals fresher and healthier.

“It’s thanks to our volunteers and donors that we’re able to do this,” Vega said. “It’s important to us that we take these services to those who are really in need.”

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